The Obama administration has had a hard time deciding whether the Egyptian military's July 3 ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, was a "coup" or not.
The US government has enjoyed strong ties with Egypt's military for decades, and would be legally required to cut a $1.3 billion annual military aid package to Egypt if it declared the military's move a coup – which would surely jeopardize its influence on the world's most populous Arab country.
But recent statements by US officials suggest that Washington has passed its initial confusion and has begun to throw its weight behind a "political solution" to the crisis.
US Secretary of State John Kerry even went so far as to say that Egypt's military was "restoring democracy" when it ousted Morsi early last month.
"The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descendance into chaos, into violence," Kerry said last week.
"And the military did not take over, to the best of our judgment – so far," Kerry added. "To run the country, there's a civilian government. In effect, they were restoring democracy."
The US also dispatched Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, along with Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, to talk to all sides in Egypt in hopes of resolving the political crisis – a move seen by analysts as an intensified effort by the Obama administration to save what can still be saved.
"The recent approach of the US reflects its realization that it is no longer able to play a political role, whether before or after June 30," Mounzer Sleiman, director of the Washington-based Center for American and Arab Studies, told Anadolu Agency.
"So it decided to deal with the situation… and adapt, because it knows it cannot steer the situation in Egypt, especially after it lost its relations with several figures," Sleiman asserted.
"In the time that Washington failed to describe what happened as a military coup, it found that to return to that square is useless, so it is scrambling to play the role of mediator," he added.
Sleiman believes that US influence is insufficient to force a compromise solution on the two rival camps.
"Pushing a compromise requires good relations with all sides, but currently there is no balance of power and Washington is reluctant to call what happened by its real name," Sleiman said.
"So it prefers to play the mediation role, while it no longer seeks to discuss the international legal assessment of what happened, because it is over that," he added.
Edmund Ghareeb, professor of international relations at the American University in Washington, agrees, saying that the US administration appears to have recognized the change that has taken place in Egypt.
"US concern regarding the military takeover is fading, even if not completely," Ghareeb said. "And this is the reason for the change of tone by the US administration, which appears more willing to support the change."
Change of heart
The most obvious example of this shift in approach, Ghareeb argued, was Senator McCain's seeming change of heart on the issue.
"In early July, Senator McCain described what happened in Egypt as a 'coup' and urged the US administration to oppose it, but when Republican Senator Rand Paul proposed suspending US aid to Egypt, McCain changed his stance and voted against it," said Ghareeb.
Some observers blame the decline of US influence in Egypt on US ambassador Anne Patterson, who has been criticized by both the country's rival factions for allegedly favoring the other.
Essam al-Erian, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, had demanded that Patterson leave Egypt, accusing Washington of spearheading the "plot" to oust Morsi.
On the other hand, the Tamarod movement – which championed the protests that led to Morsi's ouster early last month – has also said the US ambassador was "persona non grata," accusing Washington of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
"The Burns visit came to make up for the diplomatic channel represented by the US ambassador, who has been in hot water following criticism from all sides," Sleiman said.
On Friday, a high-level diplomat in the US embassy in Cairo, told Anadolu Agency that Patterson would leave her post in Cairo to become a deputy secretary of state.
The official said that the US administration was currently trying to find a diplomat accepted by both camps, capable of dealing with the current difficult circumstances.
AAGüncelleme Tarihi: 06 Ağustos 2013, 15:39